'Faith Healer' Reclaims Drug-Stricken Vt. Community 1 Block at a Time
A Vermont woman isn’t waiting for a government solution to a heroin epidemic — she’s reclaiming her community one block at a time.
Bill Beckim and Linda Justin say they came to realize that they weren’t doing their part to help their community of Rutland, Vt. After the husband and wife were rebuffed by their church, they decided to do something on their own.
Beckim and Justin cooked four huge pots of beef stew and headed to the grittier southwest side of Rutland. They randomly picked a block and started passing out stew, offering help to anyone who opened their door.
The couple has done this every Sunday since.
Beckim recalled, “The first couple of Sundays, everyone’s just looking at us like, ‘You’re doing what? You’re just coming around visiting […] just wanting to know if there’s something we need?’”
Beckim describes his wife as “fearless.” Her efforts have even caught the attention of Rutland Police Department Chief James Baker, who says Justin touches people at a level that not many people can.
“She knocks on doors of some of the most challenging families in the city,” Baker said. “It’s an amazing thing to watch; in some ways, it’s almost magical.”
“I call her a faith healer,” Capt. Scott Tucker, executive director of Project Vision, said. “She’s reaching out to people who are sometimes broken and nobody has any faith in them.”
Justin decided to wind down her real estate business and used money from her 401K to buy an old bar, which she converted into a community center for the neighborhood kids.
“We have given a lot, but we have gained a lot,” Justin said. “One of the residents said, ‘You’re what we needed. We just needed a kick in the pants.’”
Residents say that the drugs have moved off Justin’s adopted block because the dealers don’t want to mess with her. Justin said Rutland could rid itself of its heroin problem if more people would join her.
“It’s our goal to see every block in the city of Rutland adopted by somebody because the city will turn around in no time because it’s restoring that sense of community,” Justin said. “That’s what needed.”
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